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Trends of the 2020: Slow-Go Boomers

Monday, February 3, 2020

From Cheryl Russell, Demo Memo

Lists, rankings, and reviews. The end of a decade brings a torrent of retrospective. If you're tired of looking back, then let's look ahead. Using the demographics as a crystal ball, Trends of the 2020s will be a series of occasional posts identifying the major trends of the decade ahead.

Here's one of the major trends of the 2020s: Slow-Go Boomers. The oldest Boomers turn 74 this year. During the next two decades, the number of people aged 75 to 84 will expand by 84% as Boomers pass through the age group. The number of 75-to-84-year-olds is projected to rise from 16.6 million this year to 30.5 million by 2040, according to the Census Bureau. In the decades ahead, the Baby-Boom generation will downshift from the “Go Go” (65 to 74) lifestage of old age to the “Slow Go” (75 to 84) and “No Go” (85-plus) lifestages.

The 2010s was characterized by rapid growth in the number of 65-to-74-year-olds as the oldest Boomers filled the age group – the Go-Go years of old age. Recently retired and still physically robust, Boomers were eager to embrace new experiences. The next few decades will not be as easy. At ages 75 to 84, the Slow-Go years, physical difficulties and health conditions begin to limit activities and shape lifestyles. At ages 85-plus, the No-Go years, it gets worse.

Most in the Go-Go years of old age have no difficulty taking care of themselves (self-care), getting around (mobility), or doing chores (household activities), according to a Department of Health and Human Services study, Disability and Care Needs of Older Americans. With advancing age, however, the percentage of older Americans with difficulties rises steeply...

Percentage of people aged 75-plus with difficulties in self-care, mobility, or household activities
Aged 75 to 79: 48.5%
Aged 80 to 84: 59.4%
Aged 85 to 89: 75.0%
Aged 90-plus: 85.3%

During the 2020s, the oldest Boomers will age into the Slow-Go years, a time when difficulties become the norm. Most of those with difficulties receive help from unpaid caregivers – family and friends, primarily. Already, 40 million unpaid caretakers (16% of the population aged 15 or older) are helping the nation's elderly, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' report, Unpaid Eldercare in the United States. And the oldest Boomers haven't even turned 75 yet. That happens in 2021.

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